After working for Whole Foods in Austin I gained a much greater appreciation for what goes into the products we use on our skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ. While not every chemical will be absorbed through your skin we know without debate that some chemicals can and do enter our bloodstream through topical application. It’s logical that we should make an effort to limit our exposure to harmful chemicals. Not many of us have the kind of time or expertise it would take to discern the litany of ingredients on the back of our lotion bottle. In fact, it can feel totally overwhelming to take on a task that size. So how do we go about making informed decisions on our skin care?
One easy way to do that is seek out local businesses that share in the mindset of creating safe and natural products. What started as a soap making hobby to combat boredom and a little loneliness being a new stay at home Mom eventually took on a life of its own. Lip balm, beard oil and a handful of other products followed and soon Stefanie McNeely was hauling her natural goods to local music festivals and farmers markets in Tyler, Texas. While she was slinging soap she was also gaining valuable business experience and customer feedback. One thing she figured out in the beginning was you are not going to make a living simply selling at farmers markets. Plus, she wanted Moonriver’s products in as many households as possible. Those two sticking points helped shape her decision early on that wholesale was going to be a large part of their business.
Stefanie’s partner in life and business, Stephen McNeely started working behind the scenes to create a website, graphics and copy to describe their products in a fun and distinctive way. How does this husband and wife dynamic duo make it work? They met at 15 years old and dated on and off long distance (she was in Florida, he was in East Texas) then married at 19. Their son Rivers helped inspire their business name along with the stream that runs by their home. Since business started out of their house, Moonrivers Naturals was fitting. Now parents of 2 active young boys, the challenges of being small business owners continues to evolve. Stefanie is always in creative mode, coming up with new products, merchandising, ordering supplies and keeping track of inventory. Stephen handles their larger wholesale accounts, shipping and is Stefanie’s chief pep-talker. 2019 has presented some growing pains and Stefanie is quick to credit Stephen with helping her stay positive.
Owning your own business is certainly not as glamorous as some people think. Summertime is slow and the competition in the beauty industry is fierce. In spite of that, Moonrivers Naturals has made their way into some heavy hitting retailers like, Free People, Riley Rose and West Elm not to mention dozens of small retailers around the country. Now in their 5th year they are exploring some new ideas like offering a bulk beauty bar where customers can bring in their own containers and scoop up some best selling scrubs and bath salts. One of their goals continues to be zero waste and recyclable and/or biodegradable packaging. More classes like, “Make your own mask tea parties” and seasonal classes will be coming soon.
With their online presence full of personality and punchy photos by local photographers, their products certainly stand out. Their exceptional scent combinations set them apart as well. I would have never expected coffee and grapefruit to be a winning combination but lo and behold it works! Stefanie’s personal favorite is the peppermint lava wash and a few of their best sellers include Good Vibes oil and several of their face washes like avocado matcha and coconut milk. Just walking through their front door feels calming and refreshing at the same time. All of their products are handmade in small batches at their retail location so you get a major sensory experience just from shopping. When Stefanie took us into the back to see for ourselves, I was immediately drawn to the rich colors and textures from the handmade soap. We watched her infuse some incense cones and I would have been content just hanging out with their puppy, Patchouli and breathing in all those wonderful scents.
The importance of family, community and commitment to creating natural products makes Moonrivers Naturals a business I’m proud to support. Stefanie and Stephen strive to be inclusive and are invested in the success of not only their business, but other small, local businesses as well. If you can’t visit their storefront in person you can access all their spectacular products online at >www.moonriversnaturals.com
265 S. Broadway Ave.
Tyler, TX 75702
Social media @moonriversnaturals